By Andy Young

Liquor and Gaming NSW has published its review of the state’s small bar legislation, which was introduced in 2013.

The review investigated the success of the 2013 legislation, the awareness and uptake of the small bar licences as well as considering whether any amendments could be made.

The report highlighted several key findings which include:

  • While the policy objectives of the small bars legislation remain valid, the terms of the legislation require amendment in order to secure those objectives.
  • While the level of stakeholder awareness about the small bar licence and its conditions was generally high, some industry participants suggested that more could have beenone to communicate this information to stakeholders.
  • Administrative delays and complexities associated with small bar planning and licensing approvals are impeding the greater uptake of small bar liquor licences.
  • Very few general bar hotel licences have converted to small bar licences to date, which is largely attributable to the small bar patron limit as opposed to low awareness about small bar licences.
  • A majority of licensed venues marketing themselves as a small bar operate under a different type of liquor licence, such as a general bar licence or an on-premises licence.
  • Some stakeholders support an increase to the current small bar patron limit to support venue viability.
  • Most stakeholders support, in-principle, the availability of automatic extended trading hours for small bars.
  • Despite automatic extended trading hours being a feature of the small bar licence, this entitlement is often unavailable due to trading restrictions imposed by local councils under planning laws.
  • Most stakeholders support the CIS exemption. However, it is evident that some council development approval processes for small bars involve a lower standard of consultation and therefore less community input into the licence approval process.
  • There was agreement among stakeholders that the introduction of small bar licences has had little impact on the prevalence of venue morphing, which is more likely to occur in larger venues holding an on-premises licence with a Primary Service Authorisation (PSA), which allows the sale of liquor without another product or service.
  • Venues with a small bar licence have a lower incidence of alcohol-related violence than venues operating as a small bar under another type of liquor licence. Smaller bars have a lower incidence of alcohol-related violence than other types of licensed venue.
  • There is little evidence of non-compliance by small bars with the licence conditions.
  • Some stakeholders support minors being permitted in small bars for the purpose of attending functions and other events with responsible adults and to maintain consistency with other types of liquor licence.

Following on from its findings, the report highlighted a number of recommendations for the legislation, which focused on: supporting the commercial viability of small bars; enhancing industry education and promotion of the small bar licence category; reducing administrative delays and complexity in the licensing approval process; ongoing monitoring of small bar regulatory changes and process improvements.

Overall the report made eight key recommendations:

  1. Increase the maximum patron limit for small bar licences to 100.
  2. The Government give further consideration to whether minors should be permitted in small bars in the context of the recommended increase in the patron limit to 100.
  3. Upon request, convert general bar hotel licences, and on-premises licences where the development consent permits operation of a small bar, to a small bar licence free of charge for a 12 month period.
  4. Further consider the exemption of small bar licences from the liquor licence freeze in light of the outcomes of the Callinan review.
  5. Actively promote the features and benefits of a small bar liquor licence, and strategically engage with stakeholders such as the Small Bar Association and local councils to facilitate education of existing and potential venue operators.
  6. Consider opportunities to expedite L&GNSW consideration and approval of lower risk liquor licence applications, including small bar applications.
  7. Conduct an evaluation of the legislative amendments to the small bar liquor licence arising from this review, two years following the implementation of these amendments.
  8. Consider further opportunities for reforms to reduce red tape and administrative complexity, including potential expansion of the Service NSW Easy-to-do-Business initiative and enhanced coordination of planning and liquor licensing processes.

The NSW Government will now consider this review as part of its overall response to the independent statutory review of the state’s liquor laws by the Hon Ian Callinan AC QC, which was published earlier this month.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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